Finding a Sense of Home, Away from Home

Studying a foreign language is something that everyone has anticipated doing at least once in their life. Yet, finding the most opportune time to do so and to study abroad can be a familiar challenge.

My name is Jonathan and I like to call myself a forever learner. I am currently studying Mandarin (Chinese) abroad in Taipei at the National Taiwan University (NTU) at their International Chinese Language Program (ICLP), which is rigorous and intensive summer program for flagship students. I am a senior majoring in Information Systems at San Francisco State University and I am enrolled in the Chinese Flagship Partner Program. I am happy to share my challenging journey in immersing myself in only speaking Chinese during the duration of my summer abroad and acclimating to a cultural environment foreign to that of the US.

Walking in Ximending (西門町), a neighborhood and shopping district that is dedicated to Taiwanese fashion and subculture. There are movie theaters, arcades, restaurants, and stores of any accessory you can think of!

Studying abroad is indefinitely a challenge in the beginning, as one is preparing to adjust and acclimate to a new environment and culture that can be virtually unknown. As I departed and arrived in Taipei there were feelings of stress, which made me second guess and long for home. To remedy these feelings, I relied in finding a sense of familiarity in where I was traveling to and received a reminder of all the great things I will be seeing. This reminder of exploring a new world that fit right into my language goals, the people I will meet, and the opportunity to speak Chinese with native speakers. The first exploration that I was able to do outside of the classroom was go to Ximendin (西門町). Here I was able to see some familiar stores, but I was also able to try great foods sold by small vendors in bisecting allies.

For less than $400 NTD ($13 USD approx.), I was able to try delicious lobster (龍蝦) with cheese and Scallops(扇貝)

Of the many goals that I have in Taipei, trying unique cuisines is on the top of my list. There is great pride that Taiwanese people take in their food and it is especially more apparent from small vendors on the streets and allies. Another great thing about trying their food is asking for it in Chinese! This simple activity allowed me to relieve stress of being abroad and allowed me to use my language skills. It provided a sense of comfort and began to make me feel as if I fit in and was right at home. In my next post, I will share another great goal: making a local Taiwanese friend. I believe by connecting with a local, I will be able to better immerse myself in Taipei.

Stay Tuned!


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